Guest blogger Maternally Yours: Last weekend my husband, daughter and I were invited to dinner at our dear friends' house. It would be good to see them - them being my BFF Trish, her husband Dan and their 3-year-old daughter Kate. I should've been jumping at the opportunity; we hadn't seen them socially in many months and we all shared a passion for good food, good wine and good gossip. But as the weekend approached I was becoming more anxious at the idea of spending an evening with them. It was time I faced the ugly truth that while I love Trish, I hate her kid. There, I said it. I knew that it would be an evening of torture watching her darling demon terrorize my Abigail.
My friendship with Trish wasn't always so complicated. We had our daughters within several months of each other -- bonding over our shared experiences of new motherhood. While Abigail was always a very mellow, easy baby, it became clear early on that Kate was going to be a challenge. She was the type of baby only a mother could love. Trish and I joined a new moms group with playgroups once a week. Once Kate started walking the trouble began. She was overly aggressive - robbing my girl of every object she could get her hands on. The other children in the group learned quickly when it came to Kate - hold on tight to what you've got! Every time a toy was ripped from her hands, Abigail would find something else to play with but, because Kate has the attention span of a gnat, she would only want what Abigail had. A pattern started forming -- Kate would zero in on my daughter until she had nothing left to play with but dust balls.
And what was Trish doing all this time? Well she sure wasn't prying the toys out of Kate's hands. Instead she was reminding her daughter of the importance of sharing. How about we up the discipline a notch and snag the toys from her greedy little mitts? Kate's behavior felt like to a dog marking his territory. If I'm sharing food with Abigail, Kate only wants to mooch off me. If Abigail is sitting in my lap, Kate - who normally couldn't give a rat's ass about me -- suddenly wants to get cozy and hip checks Abigail onto the floor. Then, when I remove Kate and put my own daughter back in my lap -- I look like a baby hater!
No one wants to see their child at the bottom of the food chain but that's where I was afraid Abigail was headed. She would immediately get off a beanbag chair or tricycle the minute she saw Kate charging her way and she would hand over a toy before it could be taken from her. Trish was blind to what was going on and I was a weakling for not sticking up for my daughter. Because I had let it simmer for so long, I didn't trust myself to put it diplomatically. I didn't know if our friendship could survive it. I rejoiced when Trish went back to work and peace prevailed at our playgroups.
So when we finally showed up for dinner last week, Abigail was met with much of the same from Kate, only this time Abigail held her ground for most of it. In the time away she learned to stand up for herself. And time away from Trish has me wondering if maybe she's not the greatest friend out there. Sure, I stepped it up and intervened on my daughter's behalf when I had to, but I didn't like doing it and I shouldn't have had to.
If your kid's a bully, it's not cute and it's not funny. Nature, nurture - a child's personality is a real crap shoot but that doesn't absolve us from teaching them right from wrong.
Before I had my baby, I didn't really like kids much. I always thought that once I became a mother I would have some sort of epiphany and embrace all the world's children. But now that I'm being exposed to them like never before, I realize that's never going to happen. And I'm okay with that.